Behind the doors of the lavish L’Eden hotel, hotelier Séverin is working towards claiming his true inheritance, denied to him but the patriarchs of the Houses of Paris. He’s a treasure hunter, thief and orphan. The Order of Babel hoards artefacts, forged with magical properties, for themselves, and Séverin takes them from under their noses.
I seem to be drawn to alternate fantasy versions of Paris right now. I thought The Gilded Wolves was a great, fantasy heist romp told through an anti-colonialism lens. It’s set in 1889 around the Exposition Universelle, which apart from celebrating scientific achievements also housed a human zoo, something that’s hard to believe civilised people would go to look at for entertainment. The theme of colonialism rises its head throughout, but didn’t feel heavy handed.
He couldn’t bring himself to look at the looming, salvaged piles. He might help Séverin steal, but the greatest thief of all was the Order of Babel, for they stole more than just objects … They stole histories, swallowed cultures whole, smuggled evidence of illustrious antiquity onto large ships and spirited them into indifferent lands.
It has an ensemble cast, making up Séverin’s team, who all have their own reasons for being there. When he was orphaned, Séverin was passed around seven homes (and he names his “fathers” after the seven deadly sins) with another boy, Tristan. He has made a promise to look after his adopted brother, who also has a great skill at forging beautiful gardens and a fondness for tarantulas.
Enrique is a Filipino who wishes to join the revolution. He knows a place in Séverin’s house would grant him greater standing with the rebels his wishes to call friends. He’s paler skinned and can pass in aristocratic circles, but this means he doesn’t feel like he accepted by his fellow countrymen.
Laila had an intriguing back story. She was stillborn in India, and her mother made a deal to remake her. Laila believes she is unravelling and her time on Earth is limited. She knows the answers are in an ancient book, one that Séverin may be able to find. Her gift, or curse, is that she can read objects to see what happened to their owners. She is also a talented pastry chef and works in the hotel’s kitchens.
Part of her wondered if the day she turned nineteen, she would split down the middle, unraveling into a pile of shining pelts and worn bones, the barest glimmer of an almost-girl vanishing into the air like smoke.
Then there’s Polish Zofia, taken in by Séverin when she fled persecution. She loves mathematics and is socially awkward, preferring her own company.
I loved Hypnos, the heir of the House of Nyx. He’s the one who sets them on the path of this particular heist, but he’s so much more than a bad guy, holding a promise over Séverin’s head. He has a bit of a puppylike need to be loved, and I felt, ultimately he was just lonely.
A fantastic additon to my fantasy shelves and I hope there will be more books to come.
ATY: 4. A book with a criminal character
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Book Source: Purchased